BRIDGEWATER, NJ - In 2014, local resident and business owner Renee Edwards approached the township about raising awareness for ovarian cancer, a disease she herself has been fighting.
The program she presented was called “Turn the Towns Teal,” and is designed to raise awareness about the symptoms of the disease for early diagnosis, with teal ribbons hung throughout the township.
For a second year, the township participated in the awareness campaign, with volunteers hanging teal ribbons all over Bridgewater, and culminating in a special ceremony at the municipal building Sept. 9.
“In February 2014, my life was turned upside down,” Edwards said during the ceremony. “It is unbelievable what the change was, and I had every single symptom.”
Edwards said she is in stage 4, and will be on chemo for the rest of her life.
“But what you all in Bridgewater did for me, you created that support when I drive down the street,” she said. “And we have a new generation of kids who want to help.”
Part of that generation is Team 303, the robotics team at Bridgewater-Raritan High School, which was on hand to show off their robot at the ceremony, and helped hang ribbons around town.
“The team has become passionate about spreading the word around town,” said Sonia Gupta, with the team. “It would be great to see how robots can detect medical issues in the future.”
Jane MacNeil, president of Turn the Towns Teal, said she was so impressed by how many ribbons she saw hanging as she drove into Bridgewater. She said her brother’s late wife started the movement after her diagnosis.
Now, MacNeil said, the campaign is in all 50 states, as well as Canada and Bermuda.
“The important piece is awareness,” she said. “There are no early detection tests, so knowing the symptoms is key.”
Amy Sutton, executive director of Cancer Support Community Central New Jersey, agreed.
“Turning the Towns Teal sends a message that reminds people that help is available,” she said.
Symptoms of the disease are bloating, pelvic or abdominal pain, back pain, unusual fatigue and persistent gastrointestinal upsets. If the symptoms are consistent, they should be brought to the attention of a gynecologist.
Debra Battista, with the National Ovarian Cancer Coalition, said her organization is partnering with others to create a Cancer Dream Team with the best scientists and doctors teamed up to make a breakthrough in the disease.
The ceremony concluded with a special ribbon hung at the municipal building by Edwards and Mayor Dan Hayes.
“We accept the challenge to act aware of the disease,” Hayes said. “My challenge for everyone is not just to be aware, but to act aware.”
“The challenge is meant to tell the women in your life, ‘did you know this is curable,’” he added. “You should think about it. Can you choose to do good?”